SEL8643 : Introduction to Second Language Acquisition

Semester 1 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


-To introduce students to the study of language acquisition, in terms of different theoretical models; particular focus will be given to the generative linguistics framework, and to the role of general cognitive mechanisms in the acquisition process
-To provide a foundation enabling students to follow more specialised option modules in first and second language acquisition

The different language acquisition theories will be examined and critically assessed in the light of empirical evidence. There will be an introduction to first language acquisition, but the course will mainly focus on the following issues in second language acquisition:
• Similarities and differences between first and second language acquisition
• The role of the first language in the second language acquisition process
• The role played by Universal Grammar
• The role played by age of initial exposure
• The role of general cognitive mechanisms in acquisition and learning
• Variability in eventual attainment

Outline Of Syllabus

There will be two hours of lectures and one seminar per week; the lectures will introduce child language acquisition, followed by second language acquisition. The focus of the seminars will be on second language acquisition.
Readings weeks 1-5 for lectures come from Lust, Barbara. 2006. Child Language: Acquisition and Growth. Cambridge: CUP and for weeks 6-10 from Gass, Susan. 2013. Second Language Acquisition.4th edition. London: Routledge. Additional readings will be assigned for seminars weeks 1-11.

Week 1
Lecture: Theoretical perspectives and questions in child language
Seminar: Overview of the module, students’ knowledge and interests
Week 2
Lecture: language and the child's brain
Seminar: assigned readings on neurolinguistics in L1 and L2 acquisition
Week 3:
Lecture: methods for studying child language
Seminar: developing the methodology for the small-scale L2 acquisition tudy
Week 4
Lecture: Acquisition of phonology and the lexicon by children
Seminar: refining the methodology for the small-scale study
Week 5 lecture:
Acquisition of syntax by children
Seminar: L2 acquisition of morphosyntax
Week 6
Lecture: assumptions about SLA; issues, questions and debates
Seminar: small-scale study data analysis
Week 7
Lecture: age; L1 influence in L2 acquisition
Seminar: assigned readings
Week 8
Lecture: acquisition of phonology; acquisition of morpho-syntax
Seminar: assigned readings on L2 phonology
Week 9
Lecture: Universal Grammar; input
Seminar: assigned readings
Week 10
Lecture: Social context,; individual differences
Seminar: assigned readings on input in L2 acquisition
Week 11
Seminar: assigned readings on input in L2 acquisition

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture122:0024:00N/A
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching122:0024:00N/A
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study1152:00152:00N/A
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
SEL2086Introduction to Child and Adult Language Acquisition
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The lectures will present and explain theoretical frameworks, and the student-led seminars will investigate how different theoretical approaches have been used in the investigation of the acquisition of language. Students will be expected to read preparatory material in advance of the lectures.

During the seminars, students will present critically evaluate how far key studies have contributed to our understanding of the processes involved in second language acquisition.

Private study time will be devoted to preparatory reading for both lectures and seminars, as well as to the collection and analysis of learner data. Students will be required to work independently on the assessed essay.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Description Length Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Oral Examination101A25A 10-minute team-based Power Point presentation based on an empirical study carried out by the whole group.
Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research paper1A752500 words
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

A team-based PowerPoint and an individual essay on the same empirical study allow students to gain skills in two modes of research results dissemination.

Reading Lists